French minister of state for transport Jean-Baptiste Djebbari has hit out at the CGT trade union, accusing it of institutional obstructionism and tactics bordering on intimidation in the rolling strike over pension reforms, now in its 25th day. CGT in turn slammed the government for playing hardball.
In an interview with Journal du Dimanche, Djebbari said the hard left bloc was applying abnormal pressure on a section of transport workers to force them to take part in the strike.
CGT boss Philippe Martinez, also speaking to JDD, accused Djebbari and his government colleagues of playing hardball by allowing the strikes to continue in the hope of public opinion turning against them.
"They've said to themselves: 'We'll hand them some ultimatums during the Christmas holidays'," said Martinez. "Emmanuel Macron fancies himself as a man of the modern era but he's imitating Margaret Thatcher."
Not fooled by 'left-wing extremism'
Djebbari told the paper he had urged executives at the state run rail company SNCF and the Paris transport operator RATP to crack down on any cases of harassment or intimidation.
"The CGT wants to make a mark in the media," Djebbari said. "But the French people aren't fooled by their left-wing extremism.
"They're systematically against any reform. The CGT-Cheminots and SUD-Rail have never come to the ministry to propose something or outline their opposition. There's been an empty chair where they should have been sitting."
Talks are scheduled to take place between the government and unions on 7 January in an attempt to negotiate an end to the strike that has crippled the country's transport networks and disrupted the plans of hundreds of thousands of travellers.
On Saturday, more than 10,000 people marched across France to voice their opposition to Macron's propsoals to streamline the system of retirement benefits.